In the latest of a series on influential Kiwis’ wishes for the year ahead, Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau writes about how the council can help the city and community through a toxic general election campaign, a likely recession and a cost of living crisis

Opinion: I went all out with my vision for a prosperous, sustainable future for Wellington during this year’s local body election campaign. It resonated with a lot of people and it delivered me an election victory with a huge majority – much larger than I anticipated.

I have used it as inspiration as Mayor of Wellington to stick to my ideals and not doubt myself.

The size of the majority has also reinforced to me that I need to listen to the community – the very people who voted me into office.

* Simon Mackenzie: I am the lineman for the county – let’s work together
* Selah Hart: Don’t be too weak and hōhā to make a difference
* Gretchen Robertson: Dreaming of team, wishing for fish, liking our bikes
* Simon Draper: Let’s rediscover our ambition, Aotearoa
* Dame Therese Walsh: To look into the soul of the universe, wink, and smile
Socks, frocks and saving Wellington from self-indulgence
Why does everybody hate Wellington?

You can’t, obviously, please all of the people all of the time but I am committed to being up front about issues the city will face.

I want Wellingtonians to be proud of their city again and already I can feel that sense of pride is gaining momentum. It’s such a beautiful feeling.

1. Lead Wellingtonians through a toxic general election year

There are so many issues, local and global, at play that I believe 2023 – general election year – is going to get really tough and toxic with the main political parties attacking each other.

Add in a likely recession and cost of living crisis and it could be a dark, unpleasant, financially alarming time for some. It’s really important the council steps up to motivate and inspire so we can come together to push against the cold winds that we may confront.

The focus needs to be on what we can do as a city, as a community. Some of this responsibility also lies with city councillors. It’s my job to work with them and lead the city through these tough times by being honest, upfront, and ensuring there are plenty of fun events and activities on offer.

2. Work with major organisations to ease worker shortages

Hearing news about worker shortages in specific sectors has become the new normal. It’s my desire to work alongside the likes of Waka Kotahi, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Wellington Water to work as a team to identify how we can improve our workforce issues.

Over the past few years, for a variety of reasons, the city’s reputation has been tarnished. Next year we start to remove the tarnish so Wellington’s infrastructure needs can be fully resourced and the city transformed into a city of impact.

3. Advance the council’s relationship with mana whenua

Being of Pakakohe and Ngā Ruahine descent, there will be no surprise I want to take the council’s Tākai Here agreement with mana whenua to a new level.

The agreement was signed in April 2022 and established a shared commitment to partnership. It provides a massive opportunity to address core issues such as affordable housing. But it also provides a fantastic mechanism to tell our unique Poneke story.

We can do that through art, articulating our history, and bringing te ao Māori into some of our core housing and street design. Wellingtonians are quite a progressive bunch, and many already acknowledge the benefits of incorporating te ao Māori into their daily lives. It’s doubly important because it shows the council is living up to its Te Tiriti responsibilities.

The previous council deserves special recognition for the work they did in the partnership space with mana whenua.

4. The younger generation is more engaged with democracy

A priority for me is to bring more people on board to engage with the council, to become more interested in the work we do and ensure our democratic processes are fair. We do have a responsibility to listen to what the community wants and to deliver on that. 

At the same time it’s up to us to explain why things such as climate action are necessary as we head to a better future.

I’m very keen to bring the younger generation into the fold, inspire them to leadership positions, to stand for council, to participate in local democracy. That goes hand in hand with lowering the voting age to 16, something I am actively advocating for with central government.

5. Wellington globally recognised for its climate change response

Wellington has had a world-wide reputation as one of the most liveable cities on the planet.

That faded over the past few years but we are starting to see a reinvigorated Wellington being recognised again. That will only accelerate as we host great events such as the Fifa Women’s World Cup, improve our infrastructure, and have better access to affordable housing. At the heart of everything we do is our response to the climate crisis.

I will aim for the stars with that and, in partnership with mana whenua and the Government, forge a global reputation as a city that is environmentally sustainable, thriving, and a great place to live, visit, work, study and play.

Tory Whanau is Mayor of Wellington. Originally from Pātea in South Taranaki, Tory is of Pakakohe and Ngā Ruahine descent

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